In “Demands of A Firefighter pt. 1” we covered the importance of warm ups and gave you a few movements that allow us to challenge your posture and position through all planes of motion. Since the warm ups were unloaded and meant to prime us for the day’s activities, this installment will give you ideas for movements that can be performed AFTER your strength training is complete. Before we get to the juicy stuff lets take care of all legal matters.
Safety: No one is allowed to get injured in training
Training is meant to help, not hurt you. If you’re always getting hurt when you work out you better check yo-self before you keep wreckin yo-self. It may be time to re-think your training if this is an issue for you. All of these movements look unconventional but for those of you working in the industry know these positions are a reality. Although they aren’t exact for everyone, keep in mind they are meant to mimic demands that you may encounter in the field so doing them now in a controlled environment will help prepare you for game day. Be smart folks. If it feels like you’re going to snap in half then stop, reposition yourself and find what’s most mechanically advantageous for you and your anatomy.
Make the best out of the worst
Unfortunately you don’t get to dictate the scene you arrive on. Inevitably you’re going to be put in a poor position but you MUST make the best of that situation. Just because your stance can’t be perfect doesn’t mean you should loose the angle in your femur, traction in your hips or rigidity in your spine and look like a floppy overcooked noodle. It’s paramount to get into the best position possible.
Training vs. Ancillary
All of the suggested movements should be done AFTER your big lifts have been completed. Your Lower Primals and upper body push/pulls on the barbell take precedence. Being able to squat 300lbs properly, for reps, is more important in the long run and translates to your job more than doing a few 135lb elevated sandbag squats. Build a base level of strength and THEN you can get fancy. The unsexy stuff is what builds longevity.
Now that all the leagal mumbo-jumbo is out of the way, lets introduce these movements and walk you through why we’re doing this. Remember that we should be warming up before we start. In the last article “Demands of A Firefighter pt. 1” there are some examples that will get you through all planes of motion and prep you for any day of training.
There are tons of variations but they are a great foundation to master. After the warm up, get your big lifts done. The movements here can be stand alone or in your conditioning. In regards to reps, sets, and weights take a look at @Cali’s article that addresses Prilepins chart. This is a great starting point for how much you should be doing. Implement this a couple times a week and find a weight that challenges your Posture and Position but doesn’t break you off.
We’re going to work from the bottom up. The following are exercises that address the 3 axes (X, Y, Z), coupled with the warm up, it will help attack your limiting factors. Although we try to provide some comic relief in the material we put out our main goal is to teach. If you’ve been to one of our seminars, the reference to planes of motion and axes should be ingrained in your genetically modified allergy free peanut brain. Those of you that haven’t been to a Seminar need to get there so we can blow your mind. The following are the basics so you should be able to follow.
As alluded to in the previous installment of this series, the Leg Cradle Lunge with Lateral Flexion and Extension and See Saw Walk help prep the hips, hamstrings, and trunk. Additionally, the Dead Bug provides immediate feedback as to whether your spine is neutral or not. All of these get you ready for the suggested lower body exercises.
For both the squat and deadlift, get a plate or something of the sort and step on it to mimic an uneven surface. You can Shoulder or hold the weighted object in a Zurcher Carry position.
“But Levi, I don’t have a sandbag.”
Super, get a couple hose packs, tie them together with some webbing and go to town, bottom line, get creative. Make sure you note that when Luke picks up the object that he is CONSCIOUSLY engaging his trunk (front, back, sides) and creating as neutral of a position with his spine as possible. Then simply squat and deadlift as you normally would. You don’t administer drugs the first day of medic school so be conservative the first few times you do this to allow your body to acclimate and build stability in addition to the warm ups.
The Y-Axis denotes pelvic rotation, which would be a lunge. From a kneeling position with one foot on the plate, load the weighted object on the shoulder or Zurcher position, again focusing on creating a neutral spine. While maintaining rigidity throughout the trunk stand up. Don’t cheat yourself, keep a vertical shin to gain access to your high hamstring and glutes, your back will thank you when you’re 30 years into your career.
What’s a Z-Axis? If you gotta ask, you can’t afford one BUT I’ll tell you what it is. Any lateral elevation of the pelvis, like a step up, requires movement through the Z-Axis. Get your foot on the plate, pick up the object, and step up. Again, focus on the vertical shin and maintaining stability throughout your trunk. Drive the trailing foot up as if you were going to take another step.
Upper Horizontal: Push Up/Bent Over Plate Row
Now lets get into the upper body movements. This will be short and sweet due to the common theme throughout, maintain a rigid, neutral spine. Get a plate, sandbag, hose pack, etc. and elevate one hand. Control the eccentric (down) phase and get a nice stretch. Once you’re at the bottom, explosively press yourself up. Be sure to do this on each side.
We just pressed in the horizontal plane so here’s a pull. Find an object that lays flat on the ground to mimic a long board, dig you fingers under there, set your back and pull to your stomach. For an added challenge/application, stagger or elevate your stance.
Upper Vertical: OH Press/Pull Up
This is a standard Over Head press with an odd object except I want you to have one foot elevated. When you’re loading up the engine, one foot may be elevated onto something like a curb and get you in a bad position. Find the optimal positioning for your body that allows you keep your trunk rigid and neutral then simply press OH. This can be done strict or with momentum.
Last but not least we need a vertical pull. Get some old towels that are laying around and throw them over your pull up bar.
“Levi, we don’t have a pull up bar.”
1. That’s lame, buy one, 2. Find a tree, 3. Do them when you’re at your regular gym. Don’t be afraid to mix your grips, one hand on each towel or two on one towel. You would hate to be the one that can’t raise a ladder fast or pull yourself up in an emergency situation. Plus, having big lats makes you look more jacked.
The Bottom Line
Be safe, smart, know when to push it and when to move the dirt. Always keep in mind that your firefighter training should reflect your goal. If it’s to perform well at your job then you need to reproduce what you experience in real life into your training. With that being said, build and maintain a base level of fitness because everything’s easier when your stronger plus your harder to kill.
Comment directly on this page or in the Power Athlete HQ forums. Shout out to @mprice311 for starting it, lets get some discussion going about how we can optimize your performance on and off duty. If you’re not a member, get set up Here before I drop the Bionic Elbow on you like “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes (RIP).
MS, CSCS A former collegiate baseball player that has coached in strength and conditioning for nearly a decade. He is currently training a wide range of college level field sport athletes as well as career firefighters. After experiencing the effective Power Athlete method himself, Levi became an intern assisting the crew at PAHQ.
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